After a watchdog blog repeatedly linked him and other local officials to corruption and fraud, the Sheriff of Terrebone Parish in Louisiana on Tuesday sent six deputies to raid a police officer’s home to seize computers and other electronic devices.
Sheriff Jerry Larpenter’s deputies submitted affidavits alleging criminal defamation against the anonymous author of the ExposeDAT blog, and obtained search warrants to seize evidence in the officer’s house and from Facebook.
The officer, Wayne Anderson, works for the police department of Houma, the county seat of Terrebone Parish — and according to New Orleans’ WWL-TV, formerly worked as a Terrebone Sheriff’s deputy.
Anderson was placed on paid leave about an hour and a half after the raid on his house, Jerri Smitko, one of his attorneys, told The Intercept. She said that he has not yet been officially notified about why.
Smitko said Anderson denies that he is the author of ExposeDat.
But free speech advocates say the blogger — whoever he or she is — is protected by the First Amendment.
“The law is very clear that somebody in their private capacity, on private time, on their own equipment, has a First Amendment right to post about things of public concern,” Marjorie Esman, director of the ACLU of Louisiana, told The Intercept.
Larpenter told WWL: “If you’re gonna lie about me and make it under a fictitious name, I’m gonna come after you.”
Esman said the Sheriff and his deputies were forgetting something. “The laws that they’re sworn to uphold include the right to criticize and protest. Somehow there’s a piece in the training that leads to them missing that.”
ExposeDAT calls itself a “watchdog group,” posting articles that use public records to identify institutional corruption in the Parish. Since it launched in late June, it has accused various public officials and business owners of nepotism, tax evasion, polluting and misuse of government funds.
It promises to “introduce articles that explore the relationship between certain Public Officials and the flow of money in South Louisiana.”
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